How The Pan You Choose Could Sabotage Your Delicate Chiffon Cake

A staple of tea time and Asian bakeries, chiffon cake is the pillowy dessert that needs little more than a dusting of powdered sugar to highlight its lovely qualities. Though it shares a sponge cake's airy and fluffy qualities, chiffon cake has a bit of rich fat in the form of oil added to the batter, bringing in a welcome dose of tenderness. Even with a relatively simple list of ingredients, it can be tricky to make a technically flawless chiffon cake. 

Much of the cake's success will be defined by your ability to make a proper egg foam out of the egg whites, and if you can fold it in with finesse. However, there's an even more basic pitfall that some bakers fall prey to: using the wrong cake pan for the job. Though shape and size don't readily affect the cake (both tube pans and round cake pans work well) the pan material definitely makes a difference. In particular, you shouldn't use a non-stick pan for chiffon cake. Why? The batter needs walls that it can cling to as it climbs up, making for a tall and fluffy cake. 

Avoid using a nonstick pan

So what cake pans should you be grabbing for your chiffon cake baking? Look for aluminum cake pans with a removable base. Aluminum is an excellent metal for conducting even heat to properly cook your cake and it is often a lighter metal, which means it won't turn the crust of your cake too dark. The removable bottoms are a nice bonus as this will make removing the cake from the pan easier, but it's not a strict necessity. 

While you may be used to buttering and flouring your cake pans before adding the batter, you'll leave your chiffon cake pan completely bare, so that the batter won't slide down the slippery sides to create a cake with a lackluster height or a sunken middle. To remove your chiffon cake from the pan, you'll use an offset spatula or a butter knife to separate the cake edges from the side of the pan. Then you'll release the bottom of the pan and slide the butterknife under the base to make sure it cleanly releases from that as well. If you don't have a pan with a removable bottom, you can use a piece of parchment paper to line the base (but not the sides) of the pan. Keep in mind that no matter what size pan you choose, you need tall pan walls so that the cake has plenty of space to climb. If you select the right pan, you'll make a beautiful chiffon cake.